Trump’s Attempt to Subvert Census Count Violates Constitution

Statement of Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause

The U.S. Constitution enshrines a uniquely American invention: to conduct a Census each ten years to count every person living in the United States of America in order to determine representation in the Congress. Today, counting every person also ensured that $1.5 trillion in federal funding for critical resources like food assistance, medical supplies for COVID-19 recovery, youth programs, and affordable housing is also fairly distributed. Today, President Trump has issued a memorandum ordering the Census Bureau to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base used to allocate congressional seats following the 2020 Census. 

This memorandum by President Trump is a blatant attempt to skew how electoral districts are drawn, instill fear and chaos in immigrant communities, and send a message to his white supremacist base. Based on records uncovered by Common Cause v. Lewis litigation, the memorandum is part of an ongoing partisan effort led by the Trump Administration to whitewash political representation, by removing and silencing the fastest growing populations of color – Latinx and Asian Americans and other immigrant populations. 

By law, the census counts everyone regardless of citizenship status. A presidential memorandum cannot rewrite the Constitution. Under Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed.” “Persons” means “persons,” and that means everyone. There are no exceptions for immigration status. 

Regardless of the clear language in the Constitution, a group of partisan operatives and party leaders at the national and state level have been plotting to manipulate state legislative and congressional redistricting by pushing a radical agenda – excluding non-citizens and young people under 18 from the Census. From the secret files of Thomas Hofeller, the Republican National Committee’s head redistricting expert, the exclusion of these populations would be advantageous to whites and Republicans, while removing representation for people of color, legal residents, immigrants, and children.

After the Administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the Census were blocked, the Administration has doubled down with this memorandum, attempting to demand that all undocumented people not be counted in the census. 

Even the process for using administrative records to determine who is a citizen and who is not, is deeply flawed and inaccurate at best, especially for noncitizen households that rarely interact with government agencies. Counting households through administrative data would only disproportionately undercount Black and Brown households.

We call on Congress to stand up for all people and oppose President Trump’s illegal memorandum.

Read our report: Whitewashing Representation: How Using Citizenship Data to Gerrymander Will Undermine Our Democracy